Published: April 8, 2020 By

Jennifer Ho is professor of ethnic studies and director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder, and president of the Association for Asian American Studies.

This outline of anti-Asian racism is adapted from a slide deck that was developed to help educate people about anti-Asian racism that has emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I have focused on racism in the US, but anti-Asian racism is a global phenomenon. Feel free to share widely and to add your own slides. Click here to download the slide deck in pdf form.

Racism Defined

Anti-Asian Racism: A very brief history

  Yellow Peril

  • Anti-Chinese sentiment became part of the Yellow Peril language
  • Yellow Peril refers to a general fear, mistrust, and hatred of, first, Chinese in the U.S., and then these negative sentiments were transferred to other Asian-ethnic immigrant groups: Japanese, Korean and Indian
  • Yellow Peril sentiment fueled many anti-Asian U.S. initiatives, such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the Gentleman’s Agreement, and the Cable Act
  • The most important thing to note is that Yellow Peril sentiment reduces Asians to always being foreign, never considered American

  Asians becoming Americans

  Vincent Chin & 9/11 backlash

  Why saying “Chinese Virus” is racist

  Incidents of Anti-Asian harassment/racism

  How to be an anti-racist ally

AAAS Statement about anti-Asian harassment and COVID-19 

released early March 2020

The Centers for Disease Control recently announced that the Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 may spread in the United States. As people take precautions to manage their health (the two biggest precautions are frequent handwashing and staying home if you are sick), the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) wants to also acknowledge the rise of anti-Asian (especially anti-Chinese) harassment that many Asian Americans (particularly those who look East Asian) are experiencing. As an organization dedicated to the study of Asian Americans, we want to be very clear that xenophobia has no place in our communities or workplaces and that harassment of Asians due to fears of the coronavirus are not only unwarranted but sadly part of a longer history of stereotypes associating Asians, especially Chinese, with disease. We stand firm in rejecting anti-Asian bigotry in the guise of people expressing fear of Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19. We also urge people to find resources that will educate them about how to manage their health as well as why their prejudices/biases in assuming all Asians have the virus are rooted in a history of Yellow Peril rhetoric, xenophobia, ableism, and anti-Asian racism. Please encourage your colleagues and friends to explore this open-source syllabus that addresses anti-Asian bias associated with the coronavirus. And please remember: frequent handwashing, not anti-Asian stereotypes/harassment, is your best means of preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Further reading